Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ll know that ChatGPT is the artificial intelligence tool taking the world by storm.
Billed as the closest thing to human thinking, OpenAI's creation is capable of understanding natural human language. Users ask it questions, to which it generates a response. To date, it's been used for everything from completing job applications to writing music.
And, according to Canadian market researchers Longwoods International, 32 per cent of US travellers will probably use ChatGPT to help plan their next trip.
Here, The National asks it to organise a weekend visit to Dubai – but does it pass the test?
How the conversation unfolded
The National: Hi, can you please share an itinerary for a perfect weekend in Dubai, including things to do, hotels to stay in, dining options and suggestions to get around the city?
ChatGPT: Here's a comprehensive itinerary for a perfect weekend in Dubai, including the best days and times for each activity, hotel recommendations, dining options and transportation suggestions:
Day 1: Friday
Morning: Stay at a hotel in Downtown Dubai to have easy access to attractions like Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Mall. Recommended hotels include Armani Hotel Dubai, Address Downtown or Vida Downtown. Start your day early, around 8.30am, to visit Burj Khalifa. Pre-book your tickets online to avoid long queues and enjoy the stunning views from the observation deck.
Afternoon: For lunch, head to the Dubai Mall. Indulge in a variety of international cuisine options available in the mall. Some popular choices include Social House, Aprons & Hammers and Operation Falafel. After lunch, explore the mall's extensive shopping options, including luxury brands and local boutiques.
Evening: Take a taxi or Uber to the historic neighbourhood of Al Fahidi. Arrive around 4pm to avoid the midday heat. Visit the Dubai Museum to learn about the city's heritage and explore the traditional houses and art galleries in the area. Enjoy dinner at Arabian Tea House in Al Fahidi, known for its authentic Emirati cuisine and charming atmosphere.
Day 2: Saturday
Morning: Stay at a beachfront hotel along Jumeirah Beach to enjoy the beautiful coastline. Recommended options include Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Atlantis, The Palm or Burj Al Arab. Start your day with a visit to the Dubai Miracle Garden. Arrive when it opens at 9am to explore the stunning floral displays without large crowds.
Afternoon: Have brunch at one of the beachfront restaurants at Jumeirah Beach Residence. Some popular choices include Eggspectation, The Butcher Shop & Grill or Eggspectation. After brunch, relax on the beach or indulge in water sports activities available along the coast.
Evening: Head to Dubai Marina for a leisurely walk and enjoy the sunset views. Dine at one of the marina's waterfront restaurants, such as Pier 7, Ibn AlBahr or The Maine Oyster Bar & Grill.
Day 3: Sunday
Morning: Check out of your hotel and leave your luggage at the concierge. Visit the Dubai Frame early in the morning to avoid crowds. Arrive at around 9.30am to enjoy panoramic views of the city from the top.
Afternoon: Take a taxi or Uber to Deira for a traditional Arabian lunch at the Spice Souk. Enjoy local specialities at restaurants like Arabian Tea House or Al Ustad Special Kabab. Explore the nearby Gold Souk for exquisite jewellery and unique shopping experiences.
Evening: Return to your hotel to collect your luggage. Conclude your weekend with a relaxing dhow cruise dinner along Dubai Creek. Enjoy a buffet dinner while cruising past Dubai's iconic landmarks. Book an evening cruise departing around 7pm.
Transportation: Taxis and ride-hailing services like Uber and Careem are convenient for getting around Dubai. They are readily available and reasonably priced. Dubai's metro system is another efficient way to travel. Use the red line to access attractions in the city centre and the Palm Jumeirah. Consider purchasing an NOL card for easy payment on public transport.
Please note that this itinerary serves as a general guide, and it's always recommended to check the latest timings, availability and reservations for attractions and dining venues before your visit.
So, did ChatGPT plan the perfect Dubai weekend?
ChatGPT supplied a packed itinerary covering Friday, Saturday and Sunday, including recommendations for things to do, places to go and hotels to stay in, which is exactly what we asked for.
When it came to transport options, the app provided a generic list of ways to get around Dubai rather than comprehensive instructions on the best ways to get from one suggested activity to the next, which would likely have been more helpful. However, more tailored follow-up questions could likely produce this information.
The bot gave some decent options, including places that many tourists are likely to want to see, such as Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall, the Gold Souk and Dubai Frame. On the other hand, it missed several other attractions, including the Museum of the Future, the Dubai Fountains and Ski Dubai.
The app isn't going to win any awards for suggesting more experiential activities that allow travellers to get under the skin of the city. Things like visiting the galleries of Alserkal Avenue, careering over dunes on a desert safari, catching a show at Dubai Opera or taking a Dh1 abra ride across the creek are all activities that most travellers would want to partake in, but ChatGPT focused more on sightseeing.
Without any direction on budget, the tool's hotel suggestions were decent with some top choices including Armani Hotel Dubai, Atlantis, The Palm and the Burj Al Arab – but sadly the app didn’t leave travellers with any time to explore the facilities of the hotels, which seems like a big fail when guests could be paying thousands per night to check in at the sail-shaped "seven-star" hotel, or spending large to holiday at the hotel with the world’s largest waterpark. It also confused Atlantis, The Palm with being on Jumeirah Beach.
Dining options were the most disappointing part of ChatGPT’s suggested itinerary. While the tool did suggest eating at Arabian Tea House in Al Fahidi, a popular spot for tourists and locals alike, it suggested going here twice in three days, which seems excessive.
In the Dubai Mall – home to popular eateries like Din Tai Fung, Eataly and Logma – the app suggested dining at three casual restaurants, all of which are either temporarily or permanently closed.
On Saturday, the app suggested enjoying brunch, which is a good shout given that the social dining occasion is something of an institution throughout the city. However, it suggested dining at Eggspecation – a casual cafe – twice, and The Butcher Shop & Grill – a great South African steakhouse, but one that sadly doesn’t offer brunch.
In a city that’s known for its ever-evolving dining scene with everything from Michelin-starred restaurants to cheap street eats, travellers solely relying on ChatGPT's culinary suggestions are likely to be disappointed.
The AI tool also timetabled activities on the assumption that travellers could whizz around the city with no interruptions – unlikely given Dubai’s traffic. It also had visitors checking in to two hotels during a weekend visit, a schedule that would likely exhaust most.
Some information provided by ChatGPT was simply wrong or made no sense, such as the suggestion to bring your luggage on a dhow dinner cruise along the marina, or to pay a visit to Dubai Museum in Al Fahidi – which is closed for long-term renovations – or its idea to eat dinner at Ibn AlBahr at Dubai Marina – the Lebanese seafood restaurant is actually at Club Vista Mare on the Palm Jumeirah.
Our verdict on ChatGPT for planning your next getaway
There’s no denying that ChatGPT can be a great starting point for travellers planning trips to new destinations. It cuts out the endless results that users have to sort through when using search engines like Google to research destinations and offers up a focused selection of things to do and see in a city. If given more direction – such as asking it to plan a budget trip or a family-friendly schedule – the tool can further tailor suggestions to travellers' needs.
That said, people do need to fact-check suggestions, as they are not always accurate. And seasoned travellers looking to really get to know a city rather than zoom around town ticking off the bucket-list hotspots are likely to be disappointed following a ChatGPT-suggested itinerary. The same goes for foodies.
Of course, the tool offers a slightly different answer every time it's used so if you have plenty of preparation time ahead of your next trip, you can ask it for several plans and then pick the bits that appeal to you most.
For now, ChatGPT and similar AI tools are handy to have in your holiday planning arsenal, but if you’re looking to visit hidden gems, go to less-explored places or get first-hand tips about a destination, the bot should be exactly that – just one tool.
While AI is undoubtedly valuable for holiday planning, and likely to get more so as technology advances, they're not able to replace lived experiences and emotions that travel writers, locals and other holidaymakers can offer – at least not yet.